Baltimore Sun Opinion Piece: Roll Red Roll Documentary

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    Social media, toxic masculinity make big trouble in Ohio town, throughout the culture today

    David ZurawikContact Reporter
    The Baltimore Sun
    If “Roll Red Roll,” the film that launches a new season of the PBS documentary series POV on Monday, only chronicled the facts of the case of a 16-year-old girl who was raped by members of a high school football team in Ohio, I would still be urging everyone to go out of their way to see it.

    It is a supremely resonant story, and director Nancy Schwartzman skillfully tells it with a profound sense of social conscience. She also infuses the film about this widely publicized 2012 case in Steubenville, Ohio, with empathy and concern for the truth even when it involves contradictions.

    Without being obvious about it, Schwartzman constructs the narrative as the kind of crime investigation TV viewers are familiar with from series like NBC’s “Law & Order.

    The first part involves the police who investigate crime, and the second the district attorneys who prosecute the offenders, as the TV narrator told viewers at the opening of each episode of the long-running NBC series.

    Schwartzman’s deft use of the formula results in compelling drama that will make you angry, outraged and sad — and then, even angrier, more outraged and sadder yet as the story unfolds.

    Official Website: | #RollRedRollPBS
    But for all the wise choices and great execution by the director, what has me singing the praises of “Roll Red Roll” is the way it explores the role of social media in both compounding the horrible abuse suffered by the victim and providing much of the evidence used to convict her attackers.

    At a time when social media platforms, such as Facebook, Google and YouTube, and the ways in which they can exploit users and threaten democracy are being debated in Congress, newspapers and cable TV, seeing this documentary reminds me of one of the great truths we seem to forget as we grapple with each new media technology.

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